Saturday, August 09, 2008

Yeah, Well, You Get To Not Have To Pay For New Graphic Design, I Guess

I recently found out that IBM decided it needed its own version of OpenOffice, the word processor, spreadsheet, and graphing suite that can read and write Microsoft Office files. Obviously IBM was not content with just pointing their clients to the official free version now owned and developed by SUN Microsystems, oh no: they took the inner engine of that effort and slapped a user interface based on a piece of Eclipse around it. Why? God knows, but for one thing, they are one whole revision of OpenOffice behind and give no signs of catching up and maintaining parity in engines, and have blown the deadline according to the Wikipedia page for a MacOS X version. Which tells me the team is understaffed.

Why I chuckled when I found this product? IBM branded this IBM Lotus Symphony. Yeah, complete with the yellow background and blocky black fonts. Yes, Lotus Symphony, the name Lotus gave to its office suite follow-up to Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS, never ported properly to the Mac and ceded the Mac productivity market up to Microsoft Office, and then never was able to maintain parity with Office on Windows and thus ceded the market to Microsoft Office.

I just checked the video tutorial, and mostly what this porting of an office engine into a new UI system seems to do is allow the IBM team to create a UI that is more like Microsoft's current UI where tools only become visible when relevant. I couldn't install it on my Mac, even though I can install both OpenOffice and Eclipse on my Mac, so I can't check if the new plug-ins that Eclipse allows are useful at all. In some program manager's mind, making a new version of a freely available popular program using an outdated version, and then branding it with the words and images intensely tied to the bad decisions that led to the long decline of Lotus is making complete sense. Im my mind, I am not so sure.